US Coal Exports
Exports Economic Contributions Report

American coal is produced in 24 states and exported to a total of 76 countries. Exports flow in every direction – from Atlantic and Pacific Ocean ports, the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes.

Metallurgical coal is exported for use in making steel. Steam coal is exported for use in generating electricity.

In 2016, Norfolk, VA, was the largest exporting customs district, shipping approximately 23 million tons of coal, followed by Baltimore and Mobile, with 14.4 million tons and 7 million tons respectively.

The leading export markets for U.S. coal in 2016 were Europe (27.4 million tons) and Asia (15.7 million tons), followed by North America (2.36 million tons) and South America (7.4 million tons.)

U.S. coal producers generally have higher costs than other net exporting countries and as a result are more adversely affected by lower coal prices. They are also at a further competitive disadvantage due to the strong U.S. dollar compared with the depreciating currencies of other exporting countries.

The U.S. has the capacity to export an estimated 200 million tons of coal through existing terminals (including Baltimore, MD; Norfolk, VA; Mobile, AL; New Orleans, LA; Houston, TX). This capacity could increase significantly through the expansion of existing port and terminal facilities on the West coast and in the Northwest and provide a better export conduit for Asia-Pacific markets, however these facilities are hindered by significant political and regulatory headwinds (Longview and Cherry Point, WA; Oakland, CA.)

Powder River Basin (WY and MT) Coal Export Metrics:

Demand for Powder River Basin (PRB) coal exports has grown in recent years due to the region’s abundant resources and low-cost mining operations. At present, much of the exported coal from this region travels through the Seattle customs district and into Canada to be exported through facilities located in Vancouver and Ridley, B.C. (about 1.1 million tons, valued at nearly $78 million.)

A 2012 report from The Energy Policy Research Foundation estimated the economic value of PRB exports of 50 to 100 million tons to be more than $2 billion dollars annually.

Growth in PRB coal exports has the potential to result in significantly higher lease values and revenues on federal and state coal reserves.

  • “The fact that we’re no longer in the age of energy scarcity – that we’re in the age of energy abundance – positions the United States in a totally different place. This gives access to affordable, reliable energy in the United States, and gives the U.S. a major competitive advantage.”
    – Dave Banks, Special Assistant to President Donald Trump for International Energy, June 2017
  • “It is in the national interest to promote clean and safe development of our Nation's vast energy resources, while at the same time avoiding regulatory burdens that unnecessarily encumber energy production, constrain economic growth, and prevent job creation. Moreover, the prudent development of these natural resources is essential to ensuring the Nation's geopolitical security.”
    – Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth, March 28, 2017
  • “Historically, U.S. companies seeking to expand their revenues focused first on increasing their number and share of U.S customers. For years, this focus served as a winning strategy for many of the most successful U.S. companies. Today, global economic trends make clear that successful companies are those that reach and sell to consumers outside U.S. borders and around the globe.”
    — 2011 National Export Strategy, U.S. Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee
  • “Federal regulatory agencies should not require climate change studies in the course of their permitting processes for proposed facilities. Coal will be consumed around the world regardless of U.S. trade policy. The only question is whether the coal is produced here in North America, where environmental standards are high, or elsewhere.”
    — U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, January 7, 2014
  • “At present 19% of the world’s population, 1.3 billion people, lack access to electricity and on New Policy Scenario projections there will still be 1 billion people without such access in 2030. To meet the UN Millennium Development Goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2015, 395 million more people need access to electricity. There is a strong correlation between electrification and improvement in the United Nations’ Human Development Index.”
    — International Energy Agency, Coal Industry Advisory Board
  • “Access to electricity is strongly correlated with every measurable indicator of human development”
    — Berkeley Science Review, 2008

Count on Coal

National Mining Association

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